By Katia Puryear
“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” -Napoleon Hill (1881-2970)
My family recently went through a medical crisis which led me to spend a lot of time reflecting on the role of faith in the event of obstacles. How useful is faith, really, in a modern society? This rings especially true in a medical situation, where science is used to justify everything. We all go through challenges of many different sorts, and the role and worth that faith can play in those situations is debatable by many in society. This article is meant to summarize my personal reflections after five months of facing daily obstacles with my child in the hospital.
Odinism is different from other religions in the respect that it is not dogmatic and can be practiced in many different ways. Some feel that the gods are actual beings we can communicate with and consult. Others feel they are archetypes, or symbols, rather than actual spiritual beings. Some feel an inner need to lead and be involved in group efforts, while others feel most comfortable practicing alone. These are all fine. Your faith is your own and nobody should judge you for practicing it in the manner which is most comfortable for you.
Regardless of how you see things or how you practice, one of the great things about faith and believing in something is that it can be a tool to help carry you through difficult times. Obstacles happen to everyone, no one is excluded from them, and being a devoutly religious person of any faith will not give you a pass to avoid going through difficult times. However your values and principles can serve as roots that will give you nourishment when the storms of adversity pound against you. Struggles will happen in life, but for each struggle, faith points us to an inner power to overcome.
FAITH HELPS US TO OVERCOME.
FAITH OVERCOMES PESSIMISM.
A recent study by the Journal of Religion and Health revealed in that those who are actively religious in any faith have an increased likelihood to be more optimistic and are less likely to be depressed. However it takes commitment and faith to change your perception. Overcoming pessimism is not a onetime process; it is a continuous conditioning of your mind to focus your thoughts in more positive and productive ways which leads to effective actions. It should be a daily decision to feed your mind purposeful and empowering information. Feed your mind junk, you will produce junk.
While making efforts to change your perception, remember to always be thankful for what you have. There is always someone out there struggling with a burden heavier than your own. Someone who would give anything to trade places with you. Always. Perception is key. Your ancestors survived some of the most intense times imaginable- from wars, to disease and famine, treks across oceans and continents, without a smartphone or technology of any kind. Your very existence is a testament to their survival. Never take that for granted, and draw strength from the courage, steadfastness, and intelligence of those who have shared your blood.
The lore can also be a good reference while trying to find the light in a dark situation. The ideas of Odin embalming his dead uncle’s head so it could continue to talk, or of Loki dressing in drag to pretend to marry a giant in order to kill him, were intended to help us find humor and light in even the most intense circumstances. Don’t hesitate to find irony and humor in even the most stressful situations yourself. It will help you keep your perspective in check.
FAITH OVERCOMES ANXIETY.
Anxieties rob us of freedoms and happiness. The root of anxiety is the lack of faith in destiny and in ourselves. Understand that attempts to control the future (through worrying) or the past (by trying to change what has happened) are futile. Acknowledge that wyrd has the power to control your future and bring transformation out of what happened in the past. Realize that negative emotions are meant to alert you to danger, so rather than ignoring the anxiety, face your feelings and ask yourself, “What is in my power to change about the situation?”
Whenever an anxious thought enters your mind, decide that rather than giving into it, take a few moments to meditate. This can be done in various different ways but breathing and relaxation are key. Meditation has been recently clinically proven to, in just one session, by people who had never practiced before, enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. So know that, unlike worrying, meditation actually accomplishes something positive.
FAITH OVERCOMES TEMPTATION.
When we allow temptation to work on our minds we often make choices based on emotions, feelings, or despair. Temptation says things like, “I give up”, “Why me?”, “Nobody cares..” or, “Who needs this?”. Temptation to fall into negative thoughts or actions will always try to creep up on us and seduce us deep into its claws and there are times when we are more vulnerable than others.
But there is a moment to choose. And sometimes we have to go against everything that feels natural within us in order to choose goodness and strength. Fight to keep your hope and your joy. Remember the stories passed down from our ancestors about individuals who fell into negative thoughts and how these always led to bad decisions or negative situations. This was for a reason — they had been through more than us, and were attempting to warn us of the pitfalls of giving into negative thoughts.
FAITH EMBOLDENS US and FAITH STRENGTHENS US.
“Faith emboldens us to walk into the land of giants.”
When we can use our faith as a guide to overcome pessimism, anxiety and temptation, we can gain a true appreciation of the fact that hardships truly have no limits: they happen to everyone and anyone regardless of who you are — Odinist, Christian, Buddhist, etc. There are seasons in everyone’s life, and your personal tests and trials are temporary.
Nature teaches us that it isn’t the strongest that survive — it is the most adaptable and resilient. Resilience is the ability to rebound from crisis and weather prolonged adversity. Resilient individuals also struggle, however they have learned to balance out their feelings of dread with hope, and view difficulties as challenges that are meaningful to take on. Resilient people adjust their emotional responses to suit the actual demands of the situation. This isn’t an easy feat. Life can always suddenly hand you a situation that can be and/or feel overwhelming. This is when your faith can really step in to carry you through difficult situations.
By letting your faith help you overcome the obstacles of pessimism, anxiety, and temptations, you can focus your energies on more positive ways to carry you through obstacles. Accept challenges. Embrace adversity as an opportunity to display your skills as well as to continue to grow. And be thankful that you have found a faith you can cling onto which can help you ride the temporary waves of uncertainty.